In earlier blogs, we have talked about some of the things that stay the same as we transition from work life to retirement. One thing that does change, and in a big way for most of us anyway, is that we have many more degrees of freedom within which to choose how we spend our time. This freedom enables us to resurrect some of the earlier interests we had but didn’t have time to pursue because of career and family responsibilities.
When I first laid out the flow of blogs, I entitled this one “Give Rein to Your Passions”. Somehow that didn’t quite feel right because it seemed to imply that we were all full of a bunch of passions just waiting to burst out and get fulfilled. It seemed to devalue the uniqueness and preciousness of a passion.
Subsequently, I happened to hear a conversation between Krista Tippett (“On Being”, NPR) and Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love that helped me to think more clearly about what I was trying to say. In this discussion, Elizabeth was encouraging us to develop and follow our curiosities and not worry so much about passions. She explains that curiosities are milder, quieter, more welcoming and more democratic. “I think curiosity is our friend that teaches us how to become ourselves. And it’s a very gentle friend, and a very forgiving friend, and a very constant one. Passion is not so constant, not so gentle, not so foregiving, and sometimes, not so available. Curiosity taps you on the shoulder and says look closer”. Passions on the other hand, are more demanding, more expectant of something extraordinary. But here is an interesting thing, pursuing a curiosity may lead to the development of a passion. Probably it won’t but sometimes it does.
So, the luxury of free time that most of us experience in retirement is an invitation to follow our curiosities. As I look back on my fifteen years of retirement and recollect following up on curiosities, some were almost laughable in the degree to which they didn’t take. For example, Trudy and I have long been interested in northwest native art and have gathered a small collection. I decided that one of the things that I wanted to do in retirement was to learn to carve. So I got an adze, a curved knife and a straight knife and signed up for a class taught by a well-known native carver. Well, try as I might, it just didn’t “take”.
What did take, however, is the philosophy lesson from the instructor. One of our carving days was a beautiful summer day so we took our benches down to the shore of Lake Crescent to do our work. It just happened to be the day of the Makah/Lower Elwha annual picnic on Lake Crescent. So, as we are wielding our adzes, beautiful native canoes were paddling by in sync with a drum beat. It was very nearly surreal.
We were are all intent on our projects, basking in the glow of canoes and drumbeats when the instructor says “Hey, you guys know the secret to a happy, fulfilling life”. “Well, no, I guess not.”
“It’s real simple”’, he said, “it’s just two words – now and wow.” Now means live in the moment, don’t regret what might have happened yesterday or worry about what might happen tomorrow, put all of your focus and energy on the here and now. And while you are doing that, look around for the wow, if you look you will surely find it because it is everywhere. It might be the beauty of natural scene like Lake Crescent and so many more that we are blessed with here on the Olympic Peninsula. It might be a wild steelhead coursing it’s way up the now freed Elwha to recolonize the upper river after being excluded for a hundred years by dams. It might even be an elderly carver sharing a bit of philosophy on the shores of Lake Crescent.
Especially as we get older, I find that practicing “now and wow” adds a special richness to my life.
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